The Lite Side

Life Is Swell

A dialogue between two operating systems

- 2001.11.05

With apologies to M. Groenig and G. Galilei

Norris and Homer are talking about problems on their computer network. Norris is an unbiased middle-level administrator. Homer is an IT department tech. Joining them is Stephanie, a Mac user on the network.

Norris: Well, what I want to know is, why is our accounting software so slow?

Homer: What do you mean?

Norris: Well, it takes ten minutes to load, and when it's running, it crashes and freezes a lot.

Stephanie: I have the same problem.

Homer: Well, there you go.

Norris: What do you mean, there you go?

Homer: It's the Macs on the network. They have AppleTalk, see, and they're slowing the network down for everyone.

Norris: Yeah, I've heard Macs make things slow.

Stephanie: Exactly how do they do that?

Homer: Do what?

Stephanie: Make things slow.

Homer: It's that AppleTalk thing. See, every Mac on the network sends out signals which tell all the other AppleTalk devices "I am here." If you have a bunch of Macs on the network, then, you get a lot of unnecessary traffic. AppleTalk is what they call "chatty."

Stephanie: How do you know that?

Homer: Everyone knows it. It's included in day one of Microsoft network training.

Norris: I thought Macs were out of business.

Stephanie: The company's name is Apple. Macs are what they make. That's like saying you thought Taurus was out of business when you mean Ford.

Norris: So I thought Apple was out of business.

Homer: It's only a matter of time.

Stephanie: Why is it then that Apple is the only PC maker not laying off workers?

[Sound of crickets chirping. An eagle can be heard screaming in the distance. ]

Norris: So what do we do about this network slowdown? Get rid of the Macs?

Homer: Well, that's what all the techs would like to do, but you know those artsy types (rolls his eyes towards Stephanie) they don't understand network issues.

Stephanie: Have you tried blocking AppleTalk packets at the local routers?

Homer: Hah?

Stephanie: Most of the AppleTalk traffic is local to internal department servers and printers. If you block AppleTalk packets at the router in the department, there's no reason for those extra packets to cause problems elsewhere. Besides, the network is so fast it is most likely some other problem causing the effect. AppleTalk hasn't been chatty since the early 90s.

Norris: So if it's not the Macs. What is it?

Homer: Don't listen to her; it's the Macs, trust me. See, the real problem is we are a cross-platform environment.

Norris: You mean we have both Macs and PCs.

Homer: Right. See, if we only had one kind of computer, then we wouldn't have to split our attention between two platforms. We wouldn't have to send people off to Mac training; and we wouldn't need to be having this conversation.

Norris: So we should get rid of the Macs because they draw your attention away from the PCs.

Stephanie: Exactly how much time per person do you spend on each platform?

Homer: Come again?

Stephanie: How many man-hours of time does the average IT tech spend on a PC and how much on a Mac?

Homer: Well, we should spend more on the Macs than we do, but we don't have time....

Stephanie: ...because you have to pay attention to the Macs.

Homer: Now you're getting it.

Norris: Now wait, that doesn't make any sense.

Stephanie: Darn tootin'.

Norris: Well see, if the Macs would work on our NT network like a proper NT box, then we wouldn't have to visit them any more than a regular PC; maybe three or four times a year plus maybe one OS reinstall. NT is pretty stable, you know. Very reliable.

Stephanie: Hold on. First of all, you dodged my question about hours per platform. Secondly, if the NT boxes don't need much IT time, and you don't spend as much time on the Macs as you should, exactly what are you guys doing down there besides playing Quake? When was the last time you reinstalled a Mac OS?

Homer: Well, we had to configure the executive laptops.

Norris: Executive laptops?

Homer: Yah, well, see we bought a bunch of laptops for the bigwigs, but they all came with Windows Me, and we had to wipe the drives and install Windows NT so they could be on the corporate network here.

Stephanie: You put NT on laptops.

Homer: Of course. If they're on the network, they need to be running NT. That's exactly my point about the Macs. If they ran NT, life would be simple.

Stephanie: You put NT on laptops.

Homer: ...and your point is?

Stephanie: Our customized, legacy dialup service requires an application which runs only on Windows 98 or Me. I know because I can't dial in from home.

Norris: Really? That explains why I couldn't log in.

Homer: Really, if it'll run on NT it'll run on 98 or Me. It's all Windows.

Norris: Now c'mon, even I know that's not true.

Stephanie: I suppose you'll find a way to blame that on the Macs, too.

Homer: I have nothing against Macs. As long as I don't have to work on them.

Stephanie: Apparently you're not working on them, so I fail to see your point.

Norris: Isn't your job to keep all the computers working?

Homer: My job is to keep the network running.

Stephanie: And heaven help any Mac user who actually needs to use the network to, you know, actually work.

Homer: Well, if there weren't any Macs, we wouldn't have to worry about network viruses.

Stephanie: Come again?

Homer: Well, the viruses and Trojan horses and worms that are typically going to infect an NT network do so through their Outlook clients.

Norris: Like Code Red?

Homer: Well, in that case it was actually spread through IIS servers.

Stephanie: Another Microsoft product.

Homer: So, since we don't buy virus protection for the Macs, they can be carriers for the viruses and worms by forwarding email, although in most cases they cannot be infected themselves. So whenever we get a lockdown on a worm, the Macs continue to carry the infection even though the PCs are clean. So you see, we should get rid of the Macs for that reason, too.

Norris: And why don't we buy virus protection for the Mac?

Homer: Because it's such a niche market, the virus writers tend to ignore it. So we don't need it.

Stephanie: Apparently we do.

Homer: Well, we can't afford the virus protection for the Macs because the Macs are so much more expensive than the Windows boxes. And all the parts are proprietary. And look at those iMacs - if the modem goes out, you need a new motherboard.

Stephanie: Homer, we don't use the modems at work, and you know it. As far as the expense, that may be true of the shelf price, but have you factored in the fact that all of your salaries are spent supporting Windows machines and not the Macs? I can't remember the last time we saw one of you IT guys in our section.

Homer: We spend all of our time maintaining the network.

Norris: The company isn't here to support a network; the network is here to support the company.

Homer: Listen, you obviously don't have the background to understand these issues. I've been trained by Microsoft, for goodness sake....

Stephanie: If you dropped an iBook and an Dell laptop off the top of the building, which would get to the ground first?

Homer: Hah? The iBook, of course, because it's heavier.

Norris: Even I know that heavier things don't fall faster than lighter ones. That's been known since the Renaissance.

Stephanie: Besides which, the iBook is lighter by a pound. Norris, why don't you come down to my department and see what we're doing without IT assistance?

Norris: Sounds good to me. Let me drop off this dead weight (indicates Dell laptop) in my office.

Stephanie: Let me talk to you about feeding our fraction of the IT staff budget back into extra hardware purchases....

Homer: Now wait just a minute....


Jeff Adkins is a science teacher who isn't afraid to state his preferences in computing platforms. In his classroom he has everything from a Quadra 700 to a 500 MHz CD/R-CD/RW iMac, and they all work together nicely. He also writes Mac Lab Report for Low End Mac. and maintains a site for astronomy teachers at

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